Absorbing the wisdom of the 12 step programs takes some time. But the payoff is huge. AA/NA etc. have lots of deceptively simple ways of aiding members to develop skills to manage fear and anxiety. It isn’t called that exactly, it is called The Slogans.
But that is what it does. Keeping it Simple reminds folks about how to sort out complicated lives, Easy Does it gives people permission to take the pressure off while getting a foundation in recovery. Think, Think, Think is a reminder that instant gratification and hasty conclusions have been foolhardy in the past. Live and Let Live cautions that getting too involved in other’s drama isn’t helpful in recovery.
These simple phrases are repeated frequently when one arrives in a 12 Step program. Within the fog of early recovery they attach easily and when a member is mired in fear, confusion, anxiety they become a clue in how to proceed. It’s a genius of a strategy.
Even thirty years since this journey into recovery began I still have regrets. I know better, but they slip in from time to time. They no longer have the power they once had, but they aren’t quite gone yet. For women especially I believe they never release regrets from how their addiction or alcoholism affected their children. Men may have the same feelings but they are not as ready to express them.
That being said, regrets are mostly pointless when they appear long after the fact. They can be acknowledged, but should not be ruminated on for any longer than recognizing them and acknowledging them. The emotions that accompany regret are particularly undermining to living in the now. They linger, and don’t have any redeeming social values long after the fact.
Instead, flip the switch and turn them into snippets to appreciate as the price paid for wisdom today.
In AA they call looking into the future projecting. And advice usually follows it’s OK to plan, but not to project. Then usually the comments continue on to Easy Does It but Do It. And all this is part of the overall tenet of One Day at a Time.
Anticipation, or expectation or projecting is inherent in the lifestyle of the addict. In order to accommodate the relentless need of the addiction, constant preparedness or consideration of the next shoe definitely dropping becomes a way of life. It has to. You can’t run out of whatever you need. You have to get it before the craving stops your efforts to obtain. It’s a way of life.
So, all this frantic daily activity begets a condition of always anticipating what will happen, or has to happen. It is ingrained.
So, AA then offers a simple remedy. One Day at a Time. The brillance of this cannot be overstated.
Today it often seems to me as if confusion reigns in the quest to advise folks who need help. I maintain that there are (at least) two paths to consider in recommending how to get help when a chronic addiction is encountered. One is the prevalent psychiatric or medically based treatment theory. The other is loosely base on the 12 Step aproach. The two are not compatible. If you ask those in the medically based group they will insist it is all compatible. However, those who are experienced in a 12 step based treatment group know they are divergent and clash in the person’s mind who desires help.
This is not to say both approaches are not valid. What I do say is … unless you know both sides very well, and can translate between them for the person wanting help, it creates an additional burden for them.
Recently it has come to my attention that another subtle change is occurring within 12 Step programs as a result of the influence of treatment programs. A basic tenet of 12 Step is ‘men with men, women with women.” That is drilled into members of the fellowship from day one. This suggestion is very pivotal in how 12 Steps work. However, this is not the case in mental health based treatment programs, by necessity. Women and men are usually treated as equals during the time they are patients. This often carries over into the rooms, and warnings about no relationships for the first year don’t seem so important. It also opens the door to risk, primarily to female fellowship members as they are not as discrete as they actually should be in meetings. Think about it.
The field of addiction treatment today is a curious melange of irreconcilable beliefs. Winning the turf war thirty years ago, today’s top dog is the psychology / mental health based view. It reality, it presents as a dynamic cyclone with all polarities having conviction and absolute confidence that their way works. The research is flawed, the proponents experiment on real thinking and feeling people and the efficacy is being gathered and measured by no one in particular.
I started this blog years ago when I lived in Hawaii. I want to rejuvenate it with the insights that have occurred since then. One thing has not changed. The influence of psychology and addiction recovery is even more pervasive. The two definitely do not blend into stable recovery. They conflict.
My current favorite is “relapse is part of the process.” This is the logical outgrowth of cognitive behavioral type programming within the addiction field. Relapse is an enormous risk and 12 Step program realizes this and always has. But when the advice comes from the motivational interviewing or behavior adjustment mindset it seems logical They add the person-centered twist of supporting and accepting people’s relapse so they can try again. However, that is also enabling.
The rift in beliefs between the two viewpoints is stunning to me. And sad. As recovery is always a life and death process.